What will the UK population be like in 5 years' time?

All organisations know how much changes to funding streams and policy initiatives will affect them in the future but how often does your organisation think about how changes to the UK population will affect you? And I’m not just talking about the ageing population, although that is obviously important, I’m talking about increasingly important drivers that are often overlooked like changes to the work and skills base of this country. Future demographic changes arguably have some of the most wide ranging effects of all drivers; they impact right across all areas of your organisation, including your:

  • Workforce (both paid and unpaid)
  • Funders and their priorities
  • Work (services and activities)
  • Relationships and influence (media, policymakers, other players etc)
  • Systems and skills
  • Governance (including accountability and evaluation)
  • Beneficiaries and their needs

Our latest pocket guide in the Future Focus series gives an overview of the main characteristics of the UK population. It explores the changes that have occurred over the last twenty years and looks at how these might develop in the next five years; exploring the opportunities and risks these will present for the VCS. It covers 6 key drivers that will affect how the population will change in the future. Here’s a summary of these drivers and some important headline facts to illustrate them:

1. The proportion of older people in the UK is increasing - In 2008, the number of pensioners increased by a third, outnumbering the under 16s for the first time.

2. Family and household structures and networks are becoming more varied - 35% of households are expected to consist of just one person by 2021 compared to 13% in 2004.

3. The UK is becoming even more culturally and ethnically diverse as the population becomes ‘super diverse’ - Ethnic minorities make up 8% of the population but this varies greatly across the country: 45% in London but less than 4% in the South West.

4. More people are living in poverty and there is a growing gap between the highest and lowest incomes - Nearly one fifth of the UK population are still living in ‘relative poverty’.

5. The skills needed for the UK workforce are changing and unemployment is rising - Households with nobody working have risen from 8% in 1979 to 16% in 2007.

6. On average basic skills and education levels in the UK continue to remain consistently low compared to other wealthy nations – Five million adults lack functional literacy skills and seven million numeracy skills.

These changes to the demographic make-up of the UK population all mean the need for different services will change. Organisations may need to adapt how their services are delivered or the actual services provided. This presents opportunities to innovate as well as mitigate future challenges. New organisations may also emerge. Monitoring how needs change is essential to allow organisations to effectively respond and adapt.

As well as helping your organisation to explore six important drivers that are affecting how the UK population is changing, this new Future Focus guide is also a practical tool that you can use with your colleagues at an away day or trustees to make sure you turn the information into strategic action and plan ahead. It contains lots of questions to get you thinking about how the different drivers might impact on your organisation, a case study that sets out the practical actions one organisation took in response to the drivers in the guide, and a worksheet to help you to consider the next steps, responses and most importantly actions your organisation can take.

Download or buy Future Focus 6

Or collect the set (Future Focus 1-6)

Last updated at 09:29 Thu 04/Jun/09.
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